Hamas Leader Abdelaziz al-Rantisi, now in Gaza after being freed from an Israeli jail last week, has vowed to continue the Hamas fight against Israel and "send its militants to heaven."
Interviewed by correspondents from two London-based dailies, Saudi-owned al-Hayat and the Palestinian al-Quds al-Arabi, Rantisi said there was no room for a political agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
While Hamas is guided by Islam, which "does not permit giving up one inch of Palestine," he said, the PA openly states it is willing "to relinquish around 90% of the land of Palestine."
Rantisi gained international celebrity when he became the spokesman for some 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters who were temporarily banished to Marj az-Zuhour in South Lebanon in late 1992. He was detained when he returned the following year.
Rantisi said he was unimpressed by the changes brought about by the 1993 Oslo Accord, telling al-Quds al-Arabi it was far from evident that anything had changed at all during his stay in prison.
He disputed a contention of his al-Hayat interviewer that Hamas had decided to halt military action and give the PA a chance to make progress in the negotiations with Israel.
"This talk bears no relation to reality," he said, pointing to the recently discovered Surif cell, which was responsible for the kidnapping and killing of an Israeli soldier, as well as other atrocities. "I don't see that there has been a cessation of military action."
"Islam," he continued, "does not permit giving up one inch of Palestine and states that Palestine belongs to the Muslims, to the Palestinian people, not to the Jews. This is the Islamic position, which says that if one inch of the Muslims' land is occupied, they must liberate it.
"Does Islam allow me to go along with the (PA's) conspiracy against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, call this peace and coexist with it? I firmly believe that Islam does not allow this. When they speak of Oslo, they speak of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with (eastern) Jerusalem as its capital while giving up the rest of Palestine. Oslo boils down to relinquishing Palestine, plus aspirations which they call 'a Palestinian state'."
Rantisi made similar remarks to al-Quds al-Arabi, adding: "My position is that I agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on any liberated part of Palestine, but without giving up any land in exchange. This is liberation. Bartering land for land - to which I am entitled - is not liberation and is not permissible in Islam."
He dismissed as false the argument of his al-Hayat interviewer that armed action was translating into an economic blockade of the Palestinians and undermining them politically.
He also told the paper he disagreed with the proposal to turn Hamas into a political party: "There are 5,000 mosques preaching Islam, but they will not... move the Palestinians' hearts like the blood of Yehya Ayyash did," Rantisi said, referring to the Hamas bomb-maker, the "Engineer", who was killed when his booby-trapped cellular phone blew up in January 1996.
"If all Muslims turn into a party like the (Palestinian Islamist) Salvation Party, will they be able to liberate Palestine? Obviously not.
"But if all Muslims become like Yehya Ayyash, they will liberate Palestine." Rantisi rejected his interviewer's suggestion that this meant Hamas would "remain a mill that grinds its sons and throws them to death."
"Hamas sends them to heaven and turns them into martyrs," he replied. "And let us not exaggerate by speaking of a mill. The martyrs we have offered so far can be counted on the fingers."